Collaboration is Key: The Initiative that Brings Brands Together to Conquer Fashion’s Sustainability Issues

It is common knowledge that the fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters. You do not have to dig too deep to find endless statistics that highlight just how damaging creating and consuming fashion is to the environment and society.

The industry is synonymous with contributing negatively to the planet, throughout its supply chain, from using vast amounts of energy and water in its production to producing endless amounts of waste. For example, the fashion industry produces over 92 million tonnes of waste and consumes 79 trillion litres of water a year.

But whilst it is important to highlight the issues created by this trillion-pound industry, it is also necessary to address the work being done to limit its negative impacts.

One of the establishments leading this positive change is the Apparel Impact Institute (AII), who believes collaboration is vital in creating a more sustainable fashion industry.

The AII itself was founded by three separate establishments, and as the president of the institute explains, it focuses on ‘bringing together manufacturers, and industry stakeholders to select, fund and measurably improve the sustainability outcomes of the apparel and footwear industry’.

It believes that having major players within the industry working together will be more successful in bringing about positive change. According to IDH Senior Programme Manager of Apparel, Sibbe Krol, joining forces is the most effective way to tackle issues of sustainability: ‘The Apparel Industry has many sustainability issues that require collective action. By aligning with existing initiatives, we can accelerate implementation and avoid fragmentation and duplications’.

With the initiative already having an impressive list of other initiatives and brands that they work with, such as Puma, The World Resources Institute and Gap, it was recently announced that they were setting up a new partnership with three big fashion names.

In a collaboration, nicknamed ‘The Italy Project’, Stella McCartney, Burberry and Kering (who owns mega brands such as Gucci) are uniting. The brands have all worked with the AII before but will join on this partnership to reduce ‘the environmental impact of Italy’s supply chain’. The brands will work together and with the factories to reach outcomes collaboratively, starting off with 20 Italian provisions.

This announcement is really promising for the future of the fashion industry, particularly when looking at the successes the AII has already achieved through collaboration.

In a current programme they are running, they are collaborating with Clean By Design and industry experts to reduce the environmental impact of mills, which are a key contributor to issues of sustainability.

With statistics showing that participants of the programme have typically achieved water savings of 20% and top mills achieving a CO2 reduction of 10%, it is exciting to see the progress the AII can make in the future and what positive impact ‘The Italy Project’ can achieve.

Whilst there is no escaping the fact that there is an immense amount of work needed to vanquish the negative impact of the industry, the progress being made by the AII provides some hope that fashion may not always be associated with destruction and pollution. The model of collaboration adopted by the initiative is one that can really change the face of the fashion.

As they say, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ and the Aii is creating a platform of partners where the sustainability problems of the fashion industry can be conquered.